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Catalog Curveballs: Students Find Joy in Unlikely Courses

The start of the semester can be incredibly stressful for a million reasons, but one universal dilemma Middlebury students face is the class schedule. If you haven’t frantically emailed professors to put you on their waiting list, attended a class that you don’t know if you’ll get a seat in, or dropped out of a class and you’ve had to scramble to find a fourth, what’s your secret? Much of the process is left to chance. No amount of planning ahead can help you avoid the 7:30 a.m. clicking madness, even if you pray to the Wi-Fi gods that your computer is the mighty conqueror and clears that first banner page before anyone else. .

There are a number of reasons why we strive to find the perfect and ever-elusive fourth class. But the bottom line is that it’s hard to be ecstatic about every class in our schedules and avoid giving in and taking any class just to have a fourth class.

Although the process is finicky, some students have been able to find and fall in love with hidden gems from Middlebury’s course catalog.

Both Elizabeth Bowen ‘24.5 and Jean Wan ’24 discovered their majors after the nature of Middlebury’s enrollment process encouraged them to take courses in new departments.

“I didn’t like one of the classes I signed up for, and a friend of mine encouraged me to join his CS intro [Computer Science] to classify. I remember it was fun when I was coding in high school, so [I] decided to give it a try,” Bowen said.

“It turned out to be my favorite class of the semester,” she added.

If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you should take a computer science course at Middlebury, it might be worth a try, according to Bowen.

“I never felt comfortable taking a computer science class at my competitive high school,” Bowen said. “Classes were heavily male dominated and I didn’t feel like CS was a space I belonged in.”

However, Bowen loved the collaborative and inclusive environment the introductory class gave him at Middlebury.

“People love this course, in part because it’s challenging to show that you can code at this simple level which is a gateway to more complicated concepts and coding,” she said.

Wan took a film class called Fan Video during J-Term, choosing the class as a way to explore a pre-existing interest that she hadn’t found room for in her schedule until then.

“I’ve always been into video editing and contemporary pop media, so this course really felt like the course I’ve been waiting for,” she said.

Not only did she discover her major through this course, but she explained that she also found an incredible community.

“I actually had a very healthy experience,” she said. “People supported each other in their creative work and we had a very friendly and open environment for everyone to share their own fan videos.”

“I was surprised at how friendly and close everyone can be in an online course, and some of the people I met in the course have since become my best friends in college,” said added Wan.

Jonathan Carrol-Madden ’24 landed a big chunk of distribution requirements with the Phonetics and Phonology Linguistics course, a neuroscience elective that also counts as science credit. “I […] I took it on a whim, with the idea in mind that maybe it could help me understand and improve my Russian accent,” he said.

“It ended up being one of the most rewarding courses I’ve taken here,” Carrol-Madden said. “The teacher was amazing and engaging. He made the course quite easy to follow, regardless of your interest in phonetics – or even science.

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